The Commercial Case Law Index is a collection of judgments from African countries on topics relating to commercial legal practice. The collection aims to provide a snapshot of commercial legal practice in a country, rather than present solely traditionally "reportable" cases. The index currently covers 400 judgments from Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa.
Get started on finding judgments that are relevant to you by browsing the topic list on the left of the screen. Click the arrows next to the topic names to reveal a detailed list of sub-topics. Most judgments are accompanied by a short summary written by subject-matter expert postgraduate students from the University of Cape Town.
The case considered the following issues, being (1) whether the lower court was right when it struck out the appellants notice of appeal on the ground of non-payment of filing fees; (2) whether the lower court was rights when it held that the witness statement constituted evidence sufficient to grant default judgment; (3) whether the lower court awarded a double compensation in respect of the same alleged loss; and (4) whether the lower court’s findings with respect to the award for special damages is competent.
The court held that an appeal is not filed unless the appropriate filing fees are paid. However, the fact that the registry failed to collect the filing fees should not be to the detriment of a litigant. Therefore, the lower court erred in striking out the notice of appeal on the ground of non-payment of the filing fees, as the appellant was not ordered to satisfy the filing fees. On the issue of the witness statement, the court found that the evidence to support a default judgment can be oral or documentary. Thus, judgment could be entered into in default based on the statement of claim, or a witness statement. On the issue of damages, the court held that the principle of assessment of damages is to restore the plaintiff to the position in which he would have been if the breach did not occur. The court found that a party cannot be awarded both special and general damages for the same set of fact. The court confirmed that the damages awarded amounted to a double compensation.
Appeal succeeds in part.
This appeal is in relation to whether an order of non-suit was the appropriate order. The appeal originated from an institution of an action against the respondents. The action was centred around an order for damages, due to an unlawful dismissal from employment. The respondent disputed these claims as they contended that the contract was lawfully terminated.
The courts below granted judgment in favour of the appellant. However, in the Court of Appeal a piece of evidence belonging to the appellant was expunged on the ground that those pleadings did not constitute evidence. An order of non-suit was made by the Court of Appeal. It is that order of non-suit that gave rise to this appeal at the Supreme Court.
The appellant submitted that there was a breach of the fundamental right to fair hearing as the non-suit was instituted before hearing. Furthermore, he claimed to have satisfactorily proved his case for damages on the now expunged evidence and that this was therefore not a case in which an order of non-suit ought to have been made.
This court resolved this issue in the appellant's favour and the judgment of the Court of Appeal was set aside. Accordingly, this appeal was remitted to the Court of Appeal to be heard by a different panel.
The subject matter in this case is a market stall at Igbudu Market, Warri. The second respondent permitted the appellant the use of a stall, ordinarily used by the appellant, during a temporary absence. However upon the second respondent’s return, the appellant refused repeated requests to vacate the stall.
In essence, this claim was for the possession of thr stall. The court was called upon to decide in whom the right to the stall resides.
It was the appellants claim that she was afforded lawful entry to the property. Additionally, that as a sub-tenant she was entitled to six months notice of eviction as per legislation. Such notice was not granted by the second respondent. The second respondent claimed damages for trespass to the stall. The judgment in the court below was in favour of the respondents.
On appeal, the appellant argued that the High Court did not properly evaluate certain evidence adduced. In any event, had it been properly evaluated, the judgment would have been favourable to the appellant. Thus, there was a miscarriage of justice.
This court held that the evidence that the appellant held on to possession of the stall could not on its own confer possession of the disputed stall. It found no merit whatsoever in this appeal and dismissed the appeal.
The respondent sued the appellant for default of payment in respect of loans granted to the appellant by the respondent in the course of the appellant’s employment.
The appellant claimed that liability in respect of the car loan should not have been determined solely by reference to the formal contract. Instead, the court should have had regard to extrinsic evidence.
The appellant further claimed that the summary judgment granted against him by the court below was erroneously made as there was a plausible dispute between the parties for which leave should have been granted to the appellant to defend the action. The respondent contended that the factual situation representing the appellant's defence did not constitute a good defence on the merit to the claim of the respondent. This court agreed with the respondent.
The appellant submitted that his continued retention in the employment of the respondent was a condition precedent to his repayment of the loans and his employment having been terminated, the enforcement of the personal loans had been frustrated. This court held that this stance was not sustainable because the contracts of employment and personal loans between the parties were two distinct contracts and their duration not co-existent. Thus, the appeal was dismissed.
The appellant sought an order of the court nullifying the nomination of the first respondent as candidate of the second Respondent in the 2015 Governorship election in Yobe State. This case considered whether the lower court was right to have held that the appellant was not an aspirant in the second respondent for the purpose of invoking the provisions of s 87(9) of the Electoral Act (the act), and whether the lower court was right that the appellant had not established an allegation of forged documents.
The court held that two conditions must be present to confer the necessary locus standi to invoke the provisions of S 87(9) of the act, (1) there must be a complaint that the party’s guidelines or the provisions of the act were not observed in the nomination process and (2) the complainant must have participated in the primary election. The court found that the appellant did not participate in the primary election and was thus unable to invoke the provisions of s 87(9) of the act.
In determining whether a document has been forged, a party must prove; (1) the existence of a document in writing; (2) the document or writing is forged; (3) that the forgery was by the person being accused; (4) that the party who made it knew that the document was false; and (5) the party alleged intended the forged document to be acted upon as genuine. The court held that the court below was correct in holding that the appellant had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the document was forged.
The matter arose from a decision on a dispute about traditional ownership of land between the appellant or the respondent’s family in favour of the respondents.
As the trial court had found in favour of the respondent, the key question was whether the trial court was correct in its findings. The court first noted the trial court’s failure to fully address all issues necessary for determining a declaration of title before making a comment on the judgment’s failure to appraise and evaluate the evidence presented to it. It asserted that it is a legal requirement for a court to consider and determine all issues brought before it otherwise the judgment would be flawed and could amount to a miscarriage of justice and breach of fair hearing. The court thus reasoned that the total dearth of findings on any of the substantial issues of facts and law by the trial court rendered its judgment a nullity. Hence the trial court’s judgment was incorrect.
Further, the court decried the trial court’s failure to deal with salient issues that included evidence of traditional history, inheritance and length of possession as an abdication of its duties. On whether the court could remedy this, it noted that since these depended heavily on credibility of witnesses, would be handicapped to make findings to resolve the dispute. The court thus set aside the judgment of the trial court and remitted the matter to the High Court for de novo hearing.
The matter involved an appeal over a decision made about a contractual dispute between the appellant and the respondent.
The first issue was whether the trial court had jurisdiction to consider a contractual matter between an individual banker and his bank. The court engaged with the interpretation of the relevant constitutional provision (s 251(1)(d)) as given by the Supreme Court and established that it granted concurrent jurisdiction between federal and state High Courts in customer-bank matters. The court reasoned that the provision is an exception to the exclusive jurisdiction enjoyed by federal courts. It concluded that the trial court had jurisdiction, though concurrent, to decide the matter at issue.
The second issue was whether there had been sufficient proof at the trial court to support judgment in favour of the respondent. Acknowledging that this issue required the court to embark on a re-evaluation of the evidence, the court emphasised that interference could only be done if it is shown that the trial court’s judgment was perversely flawed. After reviewing the trial court processes, the court concluded that there was a failure to properly evaluate the totality of all evidence, particularly determining what was admissible or inadmissible, before making its decisions. Since there was proof of an absence of a nexus link between the conclusions of the court and the proven facts, the appellate court could thus interfere and re-evaluate the evidence. The trial court’s judgment was therefore found to be fraught with error and was set aside.
The crux of the matter is whether or not the trial court erred in holding the appellant/defendant was given ample opportunities but failed, refused and/or neglected to defend the suit and present its case before the court. The appellant contended that the lower court’s refusal to re-open the case amounted to a violation of its right to fair hearing. The court held that the appellant had ample time to defend its case but failed.
The second issue was whether the exhibits admitted by the lower court were deserving of ascription of any probative value. The court held that documentary evidence can be admitted in the absence of the maker; what matters is admissibility. This means that a document can be admitted without the court attaching probative value to it.
The court reiterated that where the lower court fails to examine documents tendered before it, an appellate court is in good position to evaluate such exhibits. The court thus held that the lower court erred when it held that the respondents were entitled to judgment.
In the result, the appeal succeeded even though the first issue was held in favor of the respondent.
The case concerned an appeal against the ruling of the High Court relating to land ownership.
Based on the evidence adduced in the High Court, the court had to consider whether the appellant and the respondent proved their respective cases and whether the land in question was clearly described during the trial.
The court held that only the appellant was able to prove his case and that the land in question was clearly identified by the appellant.
The court went on to state that the appellant was able to prove title to the land in question through his grandfather and that the respondents did not dispute the claim. Furthermore, the respondents asserted in their pleadings that the land in question was acquired by the state but failed to discharge the burden that rested on them in proving so. The court ruled in favour of the appellant in so far as him being able to clearly identify and describe the land in question.
The appeal succeeded, and the judgment of the High Court was set aside. The court confirmed that the title of the land vested in the appellant and granted a perpetual injunction restraining the respondents from trespassing on the land.
This case concerns a vast tract of land which belongs to the Oloto Royal Family of Lagos, of whom the appellant is traditional monarch and head of family. The appellant sought to set aside a conveyance on the grounds that the deeds of conveyance were fraudulently executed. The court considered whether reliance on the presumptions raised in ss 123 and 150(1) Evidence Act (the act) was justifiable where the purported vendors did not sign the deeds. The court also considered whether the lower court was correct to have sustained the plea of laches and acquiescence against the appellant.
The court held the claimant bears the burden of proof for ownership of land. Further, in terms of s 150(1) of the act, when any judicial or official act is shown to have been done in a manner substantially regular, it is presumed that there was compliance with the formal requisites. The court held that in considering the doctrine of laches the plaintiffs must also consider acquiescence on the plaintiffs' part and any change of the position that has occurred on the defendant's part.
The court found that the respondents failed to tender the original copy of the conveyance containing the actual signatures of the vendors; therefore, reliance on s 123 and s 150(1) of the act is not justifiable. The court also found that the court of equity would come to the aid of the respondent and hold it unconscionable to uproot the respondent from the land.
Accordingly, the appeal succeeded in part, the court set aside the decision by the lower court that the conveyance documents are valid as per the Evidence Act.
The court considered whether the court below was correct in finding that the re-allocation of land was valid in law. Furthermore, it considered whether the below court was correct in finding that ownership could not be established, irrespective of a subsisting agreement and whether the court was correct in admitting inadmissible evidence.
The appellants alleged that they were staff of Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (‘NITEL’) purchased flats from NITEL and occupied them with supporting letters to confirm their purchase. They subsequently discovered that a portion of their land had been re-allocated and used as a car park without their consent.
The court found that a party for a declaration of title of land must show the court clearly the area of land to which the claim relates. The court found that the appellants did not prove their title by failing to prove acts of ownership or long possession.
On the issue of ownership, the court considered the five requirements for a contract to be valid, namely, 1) offer, 2) acceptance, 3) consideration, 4) intention to create a legal relationship and 5) capacity to contract. These must co-exist for a contract to be formed in law. It was found that a valid sale agreement had been established, therefore denoting ownership.
The court found that the admission of evidence which was made during the pendency of the suit was inadmissible and should not have been relied upon by the court below.
The court considered whether the evidence led in the court below was properly evaluated. This case concerned whether the court below erred in assessing the weight of evidence accordingly and considered the personal opinion of the judicial officer when adjudicating the matter.
The court found that the evaluation of evidence and the ascription of probative value to such evidence are the primary functions of a trial court, who has the opportunity of seeing, hearing and assessing the witnesses and their respective evidence. Once determining that, the court will evaluate the evidence and justifiably assess the facts.
The court found that the evidence that was led was properly before the court below and that their findings were based purely on the evidence. Thus, the issue of substitution of opinion into evidence was clarified where the appeal court found that the court below applied the law to the proved facts and that cannot be considered to amount to a substitution of opinion.
The court considered whether the court below properly evaluated the evidence, and were they correct in expunging the evidence. Furthermore, it looked at whether the doctrine of waiver had been correctly applied.
This case looked at whether the revocation of the property as well as the sale of the property was null and void.
The court considered s 83(1)(b), 2(a) and (5) of the Evidence Act and found that a wrongly admitted piece of evidence is not a sacrosanct, it is still subject to scrutiny by the appellate court.
The court found that inadmissible evidence ought not to be admitted, even by mistake, and if it is, the appeal court ought to consider the case on the legally admissible evidence and preclude that which is inadmissible.
It is trite that the evaluation of evidence is essentially the function of the trial judge, where the trial judge has unquestionably evaluated the evidence before him and ascribed probative value to it, it is not the business of the appeal court to disturb such findings of fact, unless the findings are perverse.
In considering the doctrine of waiver, it was found that waiver means that the person in whose favour a benefit or right exists, is aware of those rights or benefits, but chooses to freely not take advantage of those rights or benefits. Thus, the doctrine of waiver could not be applied.
Two parties both claimed ownership to land, both believing they were first to cultivate the land. The court considered an appeal from a judgment that held neither the appellants or respondents were entitled to land in dispute. When the matter was appealed, it was remitted back to the trial court. There was a dispute over the lower court’s decision to remit the case to the trial court to consider the evidence.
The court held that the court has no power to grant a party relief that was not pleaded. However, an appellate court has the inherent power to order a retrial or remittance of a case for whatever purposes, even if this was not pleaded. In this case however, the court held that the previous appellate court was wrong to remit the case back because the trial court had already evaluated the evidence.
The court emphasised that the court must not absolve itself of its duty to carefully evaluate evidence and determine a matter on its merits. The burden of proof lies on the person who alleges, and he must lead credible and cogent evidence to support his claim.
The court held that the applicant had not proven their claim to the land and the respondent, who led credible and cogent evidence about the ownership of the land, was entitled to the property in question.
In this case two parties claimed a right to land and had evidence to prove their ownership. The court considered a cross-appeal from a judgment that held neither were entitled to land. The court below relied on a traditional oath and made concurrent findings of fact.
A traditional oath is a statement of fact that is made in writing and sworn to be the truth which are used in customary and Islamic law. The court held that the trial court could not rely on the traditional oath as this was not the only basis upon which the title to land could be determined. Because the court was not exercising jurisdiction over Islamic law, they could not rely on the oath as the basis for determining who owned the land when neither party proves their case.
An appellate court will not ordinarily interfere with the findings of the trial court unless it is shown that that finding was not supported by evidence or reached by the wrong consideration of evidence or incorrect application of legal principles.
Further, appellate courts should not readily set aside the concurrent findings of the courts unless it is clear that such finding, was made on an erroneous or perverse basis. Where there are concurrent findings of facts sufficient evidence on record in support, the court cannot set aside the findings unless the findings are found to be perverse or are not supported by evidence or were reached as a result of wrong application of a principle of law or of procedure.
The court also dismissed the findings of the trial court relating to the concurrent findings.
This case concerns the unauthorized sale of company shares the by stock brokers.
The Court of Appeal determined whether the lower court erred in its decision to find the appellants liable for the unauthorized and illegal sale of the respondent’s shares. The court held that evaluating evidence is primarily the role of the trial court and that the appellate court will only interfere where there is clear evidence that the lower court failed to evaluate the evidence properly. The court was not satisfied, however, that such evidence was presented. It therefore confirmed the lower court’s decision.
The court also considered whether the lower court correctly attributed costs. It held that decisions as to costs follow the overall decision and found that, in this case, the lower court’s decision regarding costs was reasonable and in accordance with the law. It, therefore, also dismissed this ground for appeal and the entire appeal.
This case concerns a dispute between property owners willing to sell that property and tenants of that property willing to buy it. The parties differ in their interpretation of what constitutes a binding contract.
The court considered whether the letters of expression of interest gave rise to contractual obligations between appellants and respondents. The court held that for the an acceptance of an offer to be valid, that acceptance must conform to the terms of the offer. In this case, none of the appellants satisfied the conditions stated in the letter of expression of interest in purchase of the house. Consequently, the court found that there was no valid acceptance and no valid contract.
The appeal court was also asked to consider whether the trial judge properly considered and evaluated the evidence presented before him. The court held that it is the duty of the trial court to review evidence and that it is not the role of the appellate court to substitute its views for those of the trial court unless the latter failed to consider the totality of the case. In this case, the court of appeal was satisfied that the trial court fully considered the case and, therefore, found no reason to temper with its findings.
The appeal was dismissed.
The appellant and respondent of this case entered into an agreement of service relating to aviation. The respondent as plaintiff before the lower court alleged that the appellant has not paid the amount determined in the contract in full. The trial court ruled in favour of the respondent (as plaintiff).
The court considered whether the trial court had jurisdiction over the matter under s 251 of the Constitution. The court held that the court has jurisdiction over matters relating to aviation. Both parties were engaged in the business of aviation and their dispute arose out of this activity. Consequently, the lower court had jurisdiction.
The court further considered whether the trial court had jurisdiction although the writ of summons did not contain the respondent’s address. Further, the court considered whether the trial court had jurisdiction despite the presence of an arbitration clause in the contract. The court held that the right to complain about irregularities is waived if it is not exercised in due course. It found that the appellant failed to object before the lower court and, therefore, waived the right.
The court was also asked to determine whether the lower court adequately evaluated the evidence presented before it. The court held that the party that files a counter-claim must proof that claim. It found that the appellant in this case did not provide evidence for the claim. Consequently, the court concluded that the lower court adequately evaluated the evidence.
All grounds for appeal were dismissed.
The court considered whether the respondent’s witness' statement on oath needed to be amended notwithstanding the amendment of the statement of defence. Further, whether the appellant was properly retired from the service of the second respondent.
The court held that the giving of a written statement on oath is a distinct process from the statement of defence which serves to support the statement of defence but is not part of it. Further, according to the public service rules the compulsory retirement age for all grades in the service shall be sixty years or thirty-five years of pensionable service whichever is earlier. A statement of policy cannot overrule public service rules, especially where such terms are not written in terms of the contract of employment.
The court found that when the respondents were given leave to amend their statement of defence, the amended statement of defence took effect from the date of the original statement of defence. Therefore, it was too late for the appellant to object to the effect that there was no written deposition to support the amended statement of defence. The court also found that the premature retirement was unlawful, null and void thus entitled to reinstatement.
The court accordingly upheld the appeal and awarded costs.
The court considered the admissibility of a land agreement, the conditions to prove for the existence of a customary arbitration and the court 's discretion in awarding damages.
The court held that for a document to be admissible it must be relevant to the facts in issue and fulfil the prescribed conditions in law. According to s 108 (1) of the Evidence Act Cap 112, courts are permitted to form their opinion about signatures. The court also held that the conditions for an existence of a customary arbitration are : (a) voluntary submission to arbitration, (b) agreement of binding decision of the arbitration, (c) arbitration was per custom, (d) published award and (d) acceptance of the award. The court held that general damages are the judge's discretion.
The court found that the trial judge was correct in admitting the document as evidence and establishing equitable interest in the land dispute and that the plaintiff had proved better title to the land. The court also found that the parties were aware fully aware of the land in dispute. The court further found that the evidence on record did not meet the condition for an existence of a customary arbitration. Relief cannot be claimed by a deceased person. Also, found that the pleading of the parties and evidence adduced were in tandem with the conclusion made by the trial judge according to s 149 of the Evidence Act.
The court accordingly dismissed the appeal and respondents awarded costs.
The court considered whether it is proper for a trial court to embark upon an examination of documents tendered as exhibits when such examination will amount to a fact-finding investigation that leads to the discovery of fresh facts. Further, whether the trial court was justified in refusing to admit the pictures of the restaurant as an exhibit.
The court held that evaluation of evidence is primarily the function of the trial court. However, where the trial court fails to evaluate such evidence properly, the appellate court can interfere and reevaluate the evidence. The court also held that photographs are not admissible in evidence without their negatives in terms of the Evidence Act.
The court found that the trial court did not make sufficient effort to evaluate the evidence. The court also found that although exhibit 3 was tendered and admitted without objection, the trial court did not discredit the exhibit in the process of its evaluation. The court found the evidence of the photographs inadmissible because it was in variance with the pleadings and the negatives were destroyed.
The court accordingly dismissed the appeal.
Trials – onus of proof in civil proceedings – plaintiff to adduce satisfactory evidence in support of their case
Appeals – evidence before trial judge leading to draw inferences and conclusions on the facts of the case
First appellant applied for, and was allotted, a piece of state land under a temporary right of occupancy (TRO), which was non-transferable to third parties. First appellant built a restaurant on the land, which second appellant managed while first appellant lived in the USA. The second appellant was not granted any right of occupancy.
The issues for determination were: whether the trial court made a finding of fact that could only be made after leading evidence; whether the trial court was justified in discrediting or attacking evidence tendered by the appellant that was without objection by the respondent, who also led no evidence to contradict the same; and whether the trial court was justified in refusing to admit the pictures of the restaurant.
The appeal court found that the trial judge properly evaluated the documentary evidence before it and used its evaluation thereof to arrive at its decision. An appellate court may interfere where the trial court fails to evaluate the evidence properly. The court found that it was not in a position to interfere with the views of the trial court.
Issue two was resolved in favour of the respondents for the same considerations and conclusion as issue one. Issue three was decided in favour of the respondents as the evidence was held to be inadmissible because it was not in conformity with the pleadings.
The appeal was without merit and dismissed.
Appeal against the judgment in favour of the respondent for arrear rent with costs. The appeal was brought on two grounds: the lower court erred by ordering the rent payable in British Pounds (GBP); and the trial court erred in holding that the burden of proving non-payment of the rent in GBP rested on the appellant.
The first issue concerned the interpretation and applicability of the Decimal Currency Act (the act) on the mode of payment of the rent, which was fixed by the Deed of lease. Applying literal interpretation, the court concluded that section 1(2) of the Act related only to contracts entered into in Nigerian Pounds. It was not the legislature’s intention to constrict contractors from deciding the terms and manner of payment. Parties to a contract are bound by its terms and conditions, and a court will respect the contract.
Issue two as to who bore the onus of proving the currency of payment post-Decimal Currency Act, was decided in favour of the respondent. The burden of proof generally lies with the plaintiff to establish their case, however this burden is not static. The respondent adduced evidence of non-payment of rent, the burden shifted to the appellant to adduce evidence rebutting this, and in proof of the assertion that regular payments of rent were made. The appellant failed to produce evidence that payment was made, and that it was done in Naira and not GBP.
The appeal was dismissed.